New season promise as Raith Rovers start with an away win and clean sheet

Grant Anderson celebrates in style after firing Raith's winner in Dumbarton. Pic: Fife Photo Agency
Grant Anderson celebrates in style after firing Raith's winner in Dumbarton. Pic: Fife Photo Agency

Dumbarton 0 Raith Rovers 1

Last season Raith Rovers suffered from a lack of clean sheets and wins away from home.

So to get both in today's league opener in Dumbarton goes down as a promising start to the new campaign for John McGlynn's men.

While there was room for improvement in the performance, particularly in an attacking sense, it would be fair to say that the better side won the game, albeit Dumbarton competed well and could not have been begrudged a point.

Rovers had control of possession for good spells with Regan Hendry in particular taking the game by the scruff of the neck, but the team lacked a cutting edge, with Lewis Allan's failure to convert an open goal late in the first half case in point.

He was replaced at the break as McGlynn bravely went with two teenagers, Jack Smith (19) and Kieron Bowie (16) as his front two for the second half.

They both ran themselves into the ground, with Bowie showing glimpses of the quality that earned him a new contract, but to sustain a title push Rovers will need more options up top, and the return of Lewis Vaughan and Tony Dingwall can't come soon enough.

The pitch also caused difficulties, with the grass long and sticky, however, Rovers' perseverance paid off with 11 minutes left when Grant Anderson popped up with a well-taken winner, and in doing so answering the critics who questioned the wisdom of the decision to bring him back for a second time.

Defensively, the back four had a more solid performance than the previous week's debacle in Aberdeen, albeit David McGurn was still called upon to make important saves as Rovers left themselves exposed on a couple of occasions.

The other main talking point centered around an injury, not to a player, but to the manager as, in kicking every ball on the touchline, McGlynn managed to pull a calf muscle and required treatment from club physio Iain Williamson.

With the dug-outs at the opposite end from the stand, McGlynn had to hobble across the full length of the pitch at the end of both halves, and assistant manager Paul Smith had to take on his media duties afterwards while the gaffer received further treatment.

"He shows a great passion on the touchline and he was just jumping around a bit and felt his calf go," Smith said.

"He'll need to warm up better in future!"

On the match Smith added: "It was a very hard fought difficult game but it's great to get three points from the first game.

"I don't think we played that well, but the most important thing was to get the three points and we achieved that."

Rovers made one change from the side that lost 3-0 at Cove Rangers the previous week, with Michael Miller replacing Jamie Watson at right back, while there was no place in the squad for Fernandy Mendy, who sat in the stand along with the injured players.

The visitors settled into the match quickest and they could have taken a third minute lead when Bowie showed his pace down the right, burning defender Morgyn Neill to race clear on goal, but from a tight angle his effort was blocked by the legs of goalkeeper Connor Brennan.

Bowie had a sprightly start to the game, but Rovers were almost caught out on 13 minutes by a Dumbarton counter-attack that ended with Stefan McCluskey in space coming into the box but his near post effort was pushed behind by an alert McGurn.

Chances were few and far between thereafter, with Raith often frustrated by the offside flag, with Anderson particularly guilty of wandering beyond the last man.

Dumbarton felt they had a strong penalty claim on 34 minutes when McCluskey fell under a challenge from Kieran MacDonald, but the referee blew instead for a free-kick to Raith and booked the striker for simulation as he left the field for treatment.

If that was a let-off for Rovers then they returned the favour on 40 minutes with a howler of a miss from Allan.

The former Hibs striker was the beneficiary of a collision between defender Neill and goalkeeper Brennan which left him with an open goal, albeit from a narrow angle, but for whatever reason, perhaps lacking the confidence to roll it in with his left foot or maybe the sticky pitch, he checked back onto his right allowing Ryan McGeever to race back and make a block.

Allan did not reappear after the interval, his place taken by Smith, who looked set to open the scoring five minutes after the restart only for Brennan to block his point-blank effort from Iain Davidson's knock-down, but the assistant referee had flagged for offside.

Rovers were working hard to stay on top but they couldn't fashion a chance and they were almost punished on 70 minutes when McGurn was required to make a one-handed save low to his left to keep out McGeever's close range header from a corner kick.

The game seemed destined to end up in a goalless draw but Rovers were rewarded for persisting on the front foot when Brad Spencer produced a moment of quality, clipping the ball over the home defence for Anderson to race through, before holding off his marker and firing low into the far corner of the net.

The 32-year-old celebrated wildly in front of a good-sized, vocal travelling support. They will hope this is the start of more enjoyable season of away trips than they were forced to endure for the majority of last season.

Rovers could have added gloss in the 90th minute with sub Joao Victoria forcing Brennan to save with his legs from a thunderous strike from the edge of the penalty box.

The visitors managed the closing stages expertly, with youngster Smith even showing an older head in injury-time by ignoring the option of a pass inside to Victoria to run towards the corner flag and win a throw-in, which was shortly followed by the full-time whistle.

Dumbarton: Brennan, Crawford, Quitongo, McGeever, Neill, Carswell, Hutton (Langan 84), McKee, McCluskey, Tierney (Layne 63), Crossan (Scullion 69). Subs: Pettigrew, Zata, McMillan.

Raith Rovers: McGurn, Miller, Davidson, Benedictus, MacDonald, Matthews, Hendry, Spencer, Anderson (Victoria 84), Allan (Smith 45), Bowie. Subs: Munro, McKay, Watson, Tait.

Referee: Duncan Williams.

Attendance: 870.